Reed Making: how I do it, part 1.

Thought I’d do a pictorial on how I make bassoon reeds. Here’s part one, which entails the part I do when the cane is wet the first time. The next post will be after the cane is dried the first time. These two steps are my method of forming the tube and how I bevel, wire, and wrap the reed. Working on the blade is a more complicated bit, and I use equipment that most people don’t have. Anyway, that’ll be in another post. We start with Gouged, Shaped, and Profiled cane.

Since there’s really only one way to effectively use any given kind of gouger, shaper, and profiler, it’s silly for me to go through that process. Plus, I don’t do it anyway. I buy cane that’s been processed up to that point by the manufacturer. There are pros and cons to doing it this way. For me, I’d rather pay a little more to not have to do that work, although I wouldn’t mind having more control over the shape. Since I use a tip profiler I don’t care to have control over the profile at all, so that step is irrelevant to me.

So, step one:


New Techniques for the Bassoon

Most college level bassoonists have begun to experiment with “extended” techniques on the instrument.  As part of my DMA preparation I am doing a lot of research on extended techniques.  No list of techniques is exhaustive, but one book (that is unfortunately no longer in print, but might be found at your college library) has a very extensive set of detailed descriptions on various extended techniques.  This book is Il fagotto : altre techniche : nuove fonti di espressione musicale (The bassoon : other techniques : new sources of musical expression) By Sergio Penazzi.  It’s got loads of multiphonic fingerings, timbre trill fingerings, flutter-tonguing technique… loads of stuff described in detail.  He also likes to use the typically undesireable noises of the keys on the bassoon deliberately for effect, sometimes within the context of a pitch.

Along with the book are supossed to be two disks with audio examples mentioned in the text.  Unfortunately they’re vinyl, and set up very odd at that – they look like 45s, but they play at 33rpm… go figure.  Anyway, I took the liberty of digitizing the examples, so if someone doesn’t have access to a record player, or if the disks are too damaged on the copy they have available, you can hear the examples here.

So here are the examples from the book.  I’ve run the files through a filter to remove the more offensive crackling and popping, but the source disks weren’t in great shape, so this is probably the best I could do.  Each clip is an entire side of a disk, running about 9 minutes.

If there is demand I’ll edit the post to contain a brief description of what the example is doing, but most of it is pretty intuitive.

I have no idea how he makes the insanely high notes.  I didn’t read that part of the text.  It’s gotta be with an insanely stiff reed and teeth.  Holy crap…

Bonus fun: play all four samples at the same time

Update: I found the files after having lost them, and now they’re back for good!